The Struggle for Control of the Modern Corporation: Organizational Change at General Motors, 1924–1970

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2000-12-28
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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Winner of the 2005 Business History Review Newcomen Award for best book in business history, The Struggle for Control of the Modern Corporation provides a fascinating historical overview of decision-making and political struggle within one of America's largest and most important corporations. Drawing on primary historical material, Robert Freeland examines the changes in General Motors' organization between the years 1924 and 1970. He takes issue with the well-known argument of business historian Alfred Chandler and economist Oliver Wiliamson, who contend that GM's multidivisional corporate structure emerged and survived because it was more efficient than alternative forms of organization. This book illustrates that for most of its history, GM intentionally violated the fundamental axioms of efficient organization put forth by these analysts. It did so in order to create cooperation and managerial consent to corporate policies. Moreover, it was the top managers that advocated these changes. The corporate owners vehemently opposed them, touching off a struggle over corporate organization inside GM that lasted for decades. Freeland uses the GM case to re-examine existing theories of corporate governance, arguing that the decentralized organizational structure advocated by efficiency theorists may actually undermine cooperation, and thus foster organizational decline.

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
Acknowledgments xiii
The Modern Corporation and the Problem of Order
Creating Corporate Order: Conflicting Versions of Decentralization at GM, 1921--1933
Administrative Centralization of the M-form, 1934--1941
Participative Decentralization Redefined: Mobilizing for War Production, 1941--1945
The Split between Finance and Operations: Postwar Problems and Organization Structure, 1945--1948
Consent as an Organizational Weapon: Coalition Politics and the Destruction of Cooperation, 1948--1958
Consent Destroyed: The Decline and Fall of General Motors, 1958--1980
Appendix: General Motors' Financial Performance, 1921--1987 324(16)
References 340(15)
Index 355

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